It is one of the worst kept secrets in international badminton. Actually, it applies to many sports. When China have more than one world-class athlete in the same sport, you can expect some unusual results.
|According to an AFP article recently, China's badminton head coach, Li Yongbo, has admitted ordering a player to throw a crucial match during the 2004 Olympic Games. |
Li told China Central Television's sports channel that the semi-final women's singles between Zhou Mi and Zhang Ning was fixed so that China could improve their gold medal chances.
The coaching staff had decided, after watching the first game, that Zhang would have a better chance at winning the final against a non-Chinese player instead of Zhou.
He was quoted as saying: "After the first game, Zhang looked in better all round shape. So we told Zhou Mi not to work too hard and let Zhang into the final."
Badminton is not the only sport where China is suspected of telling their players to throw matches. Table tennis is another one.
For many years, spectators, other coaches and players frequently observed some Chinese players suddenly refuse to try against compatriots in key matches of important tournaments.
Sometimes it is to give the player who is in good form a better chance of winning a title and other times, if the final itself is between two Chinese players, it is to give new blood a taste of glory.
This may be frowned upon in most countries but Li said China had nothing to be ashamed about. It was an act of patriotism.
"It shows our patriotism and in fact I am proud of it."
Zhang went on to win the gold medal in Athens and she is expected to defend her title at the Beijing Olympic Games in August.
Zhou, however, quit the Chinese team and went to Hong Kong and wants to represent the former British colony at the Beijing tournament.
If Zhou and Zhang meet again, don't look for revenge though. There are often "secret" deals between China and their ex-players, especially the ones who immigrate to Chinese territory's Hong Kong and Macau.
Media in those countries say there is an unwritten law that players who have left China are not allowed to beat their mainland counterparts for a certain number of years, especially in big tournaments such as Olympics and world championships.